Share

Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Was the Red Sox Fire Sale Aimed at 2015, Or is There Something Bigger at Play?


If there were messages to be gleaned from Thursday, the day the Red Sox carved and gutted what remained of the 2013 World Series champions, perhaps the fact to retain first and foremost is this: Ben Cherington is one, cold-hearted son of a b****.

No Red Sox general manager in history has ever had the sort of day Cherington had at Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline, surrendering Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jonny Gomes, Andrew Miller, and, the pièce de résistance, Stephen Drew in a frenzy of deals that simultaneously injected optimism as they did suspicion into a fan base wondering about what exactly the end game may be.

The Red Sox did everything they should have on Thursday. They had to get something for Lester, and they did that with the powerful Yoenis Cespedes coming back from Oakland. Lackey’s league minimum in 2015 was too hard to sit on in lieu of finding its value on the market, which ended up being a decent return in Joe Kelly and Allen Craig from the Cardinals. Not a big fan of the Miller trade to Baltimore here, in that I feel like Boston may have been better suited to trade 39-year-old closer Koji Uehara and groom the lefty in the role for the final two months of the season. Uehara will receive, and probably accept, the $15 million qualifying offer in the offseason, while the 29-year-old Miller could get closer money elsewhere as a free agent.

But the emotional entirety of the day was all made worth it when news broke that Drew, the .176, $10 million man, was heading to the Yankees. We should all enjoy every minute of this deal, right up until Cherington re-signs the shortstop to a three-year deal in the offseason.

“It is difficult and it catches you at a different moment,” Cherington said after the carnage. “Last week when things started not to go well in the Toronto series and then going into Tampa, I knew that the more the math built against us, the more possibility there was to have to face some of this. Tough decisions with people that have meant a lot to the Red Sox and who I’ve known for a long time and have done great things for the organization.”

The GM had just pulled off the impossible, and his final act was an encore treated to wild applause, a finishing trumpet on a day that simply left for asking what could possibly be down the suddenly empty road the Red Sox have cleared for themselves? Are the Red Sox better suited to compete in 2015? Maybe. It depends on which avenue the team takes in free agency to try and help lead a pitching staff that is left with the lineup of Kidz Planet in the absence of Lester, Lackey, Jake Peavy, Miller, and Felix Doubront, but it’s clear that Boston has the ultimate faith in going with Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, and company.

Just hope none of them reach 30 in a Red Sox uniform. Clearly that age is the new eviction notice in the Red Sox front office these days.

If the Red Sox are so afraid (thanks, Carl Crawford) of giving a 30-year-old, durable workhorse like Lester a long-term contract, it’s hard to imagine them going five or six years with any pitcher, which is going to significantly impact their ability to attract free agents in the offseason. The Sox are in full-on cost-control mode, which makes one wonder if it’s really all about maximizing the output of players, or if there is something more at stake here.

It’s been almost two years now since Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino reported that Red Sox owners were shopping the team to potential buyers, a budding development that was shot down with a furious denial from principal owner John Henry. “A sale of any kind is so far from our thinking it hasn’t even come up apart from technical planning issues involving death or disability. This report is completely without foundation,” he said.“Regarding unnamed sources: Any sale discussions that may have taken place were missing three key people — Larry [Lucchino], Tom [Werner] and me. The Sox and any of the other components of FSG [Fenway Sports Group] are not for sale and will not be for the foreseeable future.”

But Gasparino never backed off the story, and here we are now, two years after the Red Sox unloaded more than $250 million in contracts on the Dodgers in much of the same boat as we were then. With no long-term commitments on the books, the Red Sox look awfully attractive to a buyer. From their perspective, if they could have potentially made $1.3 billion on the club in 2012, how much has that price increased?

The Los Angeles Clippers just sold for $2 billion. Consider that Henry and his group purchased the Red Sox and 80 percent of NESN for $660 million 12 years ago and may very well be able to triple that investment if they decided to put the team, park, and television network on the market. Who can blame them?

“We’ve had minority owners get out, but there’s always been more than enough interest from existing partners to take them out,” Henry said at the time of the report. “There hasn’t been any discussion with minority partners, at least with us, that they want to sell the asset.

“Right after we spent $476 million to buy Liverpool, which many people think was a bargain price, we spent how much on [Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford]? That provoked such an outrage in Liverpool, we were shocked by that. ... Then we went out and spent $150 million or so on buying players in Liverpool and that provoked that here.“

So, what exactly are they thinking across the pond since then? Dustin Pedroia (seven years, $100 million) is the only player that the Red Sox have dedicated more than three years to since rumors of a sale started percolating. The beautification of Fenway Park has reached its apex, its potential having been bloated to the max with the Seaport still sitting there, thumbing its nose at ownership’s inability to build a new palace at the spot thirsting for one. The club just won a World Series, putting it in the forefront of the minds of potential, International investors.

The club just held an unprecedented fire sale, the likes of which we’ve never seen in Boston. Is the end game really to compete in 2015 and beyond, or is there a lot more at play? The Red Sox on the field may no longer be that competitive for the time being, but at least the game surrounding the game looks like it will have some teeth.

The 4 p.m. deadline has come and gone, but it sure seems like the intrigue and dealing is only just beginning for the Red Sox.

Continue Reading Below


More from this blog on: Red Sox